Last night, Beyoncé did what Beyoncé does and dropped a whole ass 40-track album, Homecoming: The Live Album, out of nowhere that we didn’t know was coming but we’re all better off for having. Beyoncé, ever since that first secret drop back in 2013, just comes through whenever she wants and takes over the entire ass next day (and our lives). The album coincides with the release of her Netflix doc of the same name that chronicles her 2018 Coachella appearance that was a black-ass nod to HBCU marching band culture.
The performance was black as hell, with nods to (again) HBCUs, HBCU marching band culture and black Greek culture. It included “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the Negro National Anthem, a song I wonder if white people even know any of the verses to, much less of its existence. The songs were filled with so many culturally significant moments and remixes. And I still want me one of those Beychella hoodies now that I think about it. Hold on...back.
Well, included on this wonderful album is one of two bonus songs, Beyoncé’s cover of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s greatest and most permanent contribution to black culture, “Before I Let Go.” To be black and awake in America is to know this song means the party has come to a conclusion. I don’t know how it became the de facto party/cookout/black event closer, but it is and is understood as such. The song is hallowed, vaunted and respected as such. Much like Cameo’s “Candy” is the unofficially official Electric Slide wedding song, “Before I Let Go” was, until last night, standing on its own without any competition.
And Beyoncé came through and crushed the buildings.
Here are six reasons why Bey’s version of “Before I Let Go” is a game changer.
1. I didn’t even know I needed or wanted another version of “Before I Let Go.” Now that I have one, I don’t know how to operate. I feel torn, and I don’t like it. Frankie’s version is a classic and always will be, but this joint is a PARTY PARTY JAM. Gotdamn.
2. Bey ain’t even playing fair. She remade it with a New Orleans bounce feel, included a “Candy” horn section, and kept it funky the whole way through. The older set will still step- and hand-dance to the original, but the younger set gon’ buss’ it open for a real one to this new version. She got the “Bunny Hop” and other New Orleans call-and-response moves. She’s playing with house money already, but now she’s taking over the end-of-night game???
3. I am not leaving this workspace I’m in, but I’ve listened to this song no less than 10 times already this morning, including the four minutes I made my son wait to get out of the car to go into camp so he could hear it. He doesn’t know who Beyoncé is, and that’s my fault. I’ll get him right, y’all. Promise. Point is, this song has super-high replay value and now my own kids will grow up with the Bey version, and I’ll have to let them know about the original so they can understand what Black Exit Life looked like before April 17, 2019.
4. If you’re a club DJ, how do you end the party now? For older crowds and family functions, I think you play both, but what about le club? I still hear Frankie ‘nem at the club, but now that Bey has brought us the thunder and the goat, does this become the new de facto party ender? I mean, it might be impossible with all of the partying happening while it’s on. Maybe you go Bey first and then slow it back down with Frank so people, for real for real, know it’s time to go? This is a first world problem, but a real problem nonetheless.
5. Most importantly, and this maybe somewhat controversial, but short of “Single Ladies,” I’m not sure Bey has had any other like, real live, ubiquitous songs. Yes, we all love her music (well most of us do), but like, I don’t think there’s that one song that will live forever, again outside of “Single Ladies,” which I imagine plays at all weddings, black and white. While I’ve never heard “Before I Let Go” at an Irish pub, it does play at every black function. Now Bey is potentially about to be anywhere young black people congregate. For instance, HBCU Springcoming is this weekend in NYC. There is ZERO way that this song doesn’t get played at multiple events and probably not just to end it. ZERO. There’s a bigger chance of seeing a line of white Ques show up than this song not getting play this weekend. Point is, Bey might have just finagled her way into not only a ubiquitous jam, but one that literally can’t be lived without. Think about it, does your black life work without Frankie Beverly? Can you even name anybody in Maze? Probably not, but you know Frankie and that song. This is the world Beyoncé is wading into.
6. Can you imagine if Frankie Beverly showed up on a remix of this new, bounce-heavy version? We might experience an actual tear in the black space-time continuum, culminating in the ultimate forever party jam that the Blacksonian might have to aurally enshrine and play as people exit everyday. That’s possible and that’s this new world we live in. And I’m here for it.